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Major NYC Gasoline Retailer Faces EPA Penalties for Continued Environmental Violations; Penalties Now Near $700,000 For Gaseteria's Tank Violations
Release Date: 02/02/2000
|(#00025) New York, N.Y. -- Gaseteria Oil Corporation, the New York City-based owner of Gaseteria gas stations throughout the five boroughs, faces new penalties for underground storage tank (UST) mismanagement on top of older penalties stemming from a 1994 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settlement with the company, EPA announced today. The company is charged with violating a 1994 agreement it reached with EPA after the agency charged that Gaseteria had not tested any of its 293 underground storage tanks at the 44 gas stations it then owned citywide for potential releases and leaks, as required by federal law. The company paid a penalty of $339,000 for its violations and agreed to perform proper leak detection on every tank in question. To determine the company's compliance with the agreement, EPA inspected 15 Gaseteria stations in 1998 and early 1999. The inspections revealed that the USTs at eight of the 15 gas stations were not being tested correctly -- a violation of the agreement. Gaseteria will now pay an additional penalty of $360,000 for these continued violations.
"After finding serious violations at 293 underground storage tanks, penalizing the company financially and laying out in exact terms how it was to conduct its environmental business in the future, one would have expected Gaseteria to thoroughly and correctly test and monitor all of its tanks," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "The company's failure to do so displayed a total disregard for the environment and the health of residents living near the gas stations. Although the company has informed us that it has somewhat improved its tank management, we will continue to monitor Gaseteria's operations to ensure that it finally complies with all federal environmental requirements."
Underground storage tanks are regulated by EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. They range in capacity from a few hundred to 50,000 or more gallons, and are used to store gasoline, heating oil and other fuels, waste oil and hazardous substances at gas stations, marinas, government facilities and large industrial sites.
USTs are the nation's number-one source of groundwater contamination, with over 30,000 leaks and spills from tanks reported annually. A spill of one gallon of gasoline can render one million gallons of water undrinkable. Leaks from USTs can also contaminate the soil around the tanks, and can cause unhealthy gasoline vapors to settle into the basements of private homes and apartment buildings. Since USTs are buried several feet underground, spills and releases into the soil and into the groundwater table are often invisible to people standing at ground level. To insure that releases are quickly detected, RCRA requires all owners and operators to provide a method of leak detection for each UST that can identify releases from any portion of the tank and connected underground piping. RCRA also requires owners and operators to keep thorough records of leak detection activities and of any work done on the tanks.
EPA's dealings with Gaseteria began in 1992 when the agency charged the company with having no methods in place to detect potential releases from hundreds of tanks at gas stations throughout the five boroughs, and other tank violations. Shortly after the charges were filed, Gaseteria declared bankruptcy. In 1994, the company settled with EPA for a $339,000 penalty and agreed to perform leak detection, develop a plan to ensure that proper tests would continue to be done and keep thorough records of the tests. Stipulated penalties were attached to the 1994 settlement in the event that Gaseteria did not comply with any part of the agreement. EPA inspections of 15 Gaseteria stations over the past year revealed that the company did not fully comply with the 1994 agreement at least eight gas stations specifically, that the company failed to conduct adequate tank tightness testing and properly measure the product in 22 USTs at the eight locations.
Based on the 1994 agreement, the stipulated penalties for these additional underground storage tank violations total $640,000. EPA has agreed to accept $360,000 of the $640,000 over six years provided that Gaseteria make every payment and submit documentation of its compliance with the terms of the original 1994 agreement. Should the company miss a payment or fail to submit the required data, the full $640,000 penalty will be due.
The eight Gaseteria stations at which the new violations were discovered are:
2 West End Avenue, Manhattan